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Racial (In)Variance in Prison Rule Breaking

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2015
11 pages
This study applied to incarcerated individuals Sampson and Wilson’s thesis that the sources of crime are invariant across race and are instead rooted in the structural differences between communities.
Findings revealed that individual and environmental effects were very similar between Black and White inmates, although rates of violent and nonviolent rule breaking were higher for Blacks. Within prisons, Black inmates were also more likely than White inmates to engage in rule breaking. The individual-level relationship between race and violence was stronger in prisons with a lower ratio of Black to White inmates and in prisons where inmates were more cynical towards legal authority. Thus, findings seemingly refute the applicability of the racial invariance hypothesis to an incarcerated population. Random samples totaling 2,388 Blacks and 3,118 Whites were drawn from 46 prisons in Ohio and Kentucky. Race-specific and pooled bi-level models of violent and nonviolent rule violations were estimated. Differences between race-specific models in the magnitude of regression coefficients for the same predictors and outcomes were compared. (Publisher abstract modified)
Date Published: June 1, 2015